By Rob Bricken
Let me be frank -- I have a penis. I'm the editor of Topless Robot, Heartless Doll's big-brother blog, and while I'm incredibly sorry to sully HD on its inaugural day with my man cooties, I come bearing a gift: on the heels of The Dark Knight's opening weekend, it's a list of the women Bruce Wayne has dated or Batman has knocked boots with in the long, pop culture career that includes his comics, movies and cartoons. OK, it's not exactly a fruit basket, but since everyone in America has been going Bat-shit crazy (Ha ha! I'm hilarious like that over at TR all the time, you should totally stop by), I thought you ladies might be curious about the incredible lows and the surprising highs that are the women in Batman's worlds. Care to join me?
While their alter-egos Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle sometimes date in the movies and the comics, generally, the hot and heavy passion is reserved for when they're wearing their Bat-cowl and Cat-suit, respectively. They're Super Friends with Benefits, which Batman allows himself to enjoy since Catwoman generally works as an anti-hero along with some light acts of thievery, making her a low priority after mass murderers like the Joker (it's important to note that Catwoman's just doing whatever the hell she wants).
Catwoman is the only woman on this list to have received her own comic series, involving international heists, some revenge for her own convoluted backstory (don't ask), and usually helping women and animals in need. This does give her an identity beyond her relationship to Bats. Catwoman is certainly smart and powerful (at least she escapes Batman's clutches more than any other villain), and never afraid to use her sexuality, but without becoming whorish. The best evidence of this is that she wears an outfit that doesn't expose a huge amount of cleavage, which makes her incredibly (and somewhat tragically) unique among female comic books characters. Grade: A
Chase Meridian (Batman Forever)
When Nicole Kidman talks about her most challenging roles, I'm guessing that Dr. Chase Meridian does not come up. The idea of a psychologist falling for the clearly emotionally damaged Batman is not without some storytelling merit, I suppose, but it does make her an incredibly stupid psychologist -- I'm pretty sure doctors aren't supposed to get emotionally involved with their patients, especially ones that dress like airborne mammals, and I'm absolutely sure that doctors aren't supposed to take off their clothes and reveal they're only wearing a slinky black negligee to keep their patients from leaving.
Overall, Meridian is a terrible psychologist who goes insane whenever Batman shows up. She did no favors to Batman, herself or womankind. Grade: D
Talia Al'Ghul (comics)
If you've been keeping up with the Batman comics (but, really, why would you?), you know that Talia Al'Ghul -- the daughter of the villain Ra's Al'Ghul, who was played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins -- is actually ol' Batman's babymama. Yes, Batman, in one of the many times he couldn't be bothered to put condoms in his utility belt, had sex with the villianess who bore a son, Damien, and had him raised by a league of assassins.
After dropping him off at Bruce Wayne's doorstep a decade-plus later, she engineered two bizarre schemes to kill/hurt Batman, one involving resurrecting the dead Robin Jason Todd and financing his plans to get revenge, and another involving ninja-man bats. Summary: Talia is a pretty bad girlfriend. Grade: C-
Vicki Vale (Batman)
Admittedly, reporter Vicki Vale was in the comics long before Kim Basinger played her in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie. But for both boys and girls born in the '70s and '80s, Basinger is Vale. I'll fully admit that Ms. Vale is a favorite among the male sex mostly for launching us into puberty, but unlike the girlfriends of the later Batman movies, Vicki was strong, resourceful, and still feminine.
She had an empowering job (world photographer, sometimes of war zones), was frightened of the Joker but never fell to pieces, and still occasionally gave Batman shit for his gruff act. Plus, she was kind to Robert Wuhl's fellow reporter character, when most people would have kneed him in the balls within seconds of meeting him. If she had a flaw, it was that she got captured about 45 times in a 90-minute movie. Still, a class act, all the way. Grade: B
Silver St. Cloud (comics)
This young socialite began dating Bruce Wayne back in Detective Comics #470 (in 1977), but she was no Paris Hilton. Noticing that Bruce kept leaving their dates at odd times, she eventually became the only person in Gotham City to suspect that Bruce was actually Batman, which she confirmed by yelling "Hey Bruce!" when Batman was fighting someone or another (yes, Batman looked).
So Silver St. Cloud has been perhaps the only woman to figure out Batman's secret identity on her own. She confronted Bruce about it, told him that she loved him, but she couldn't deal with all his baggage. Silver St. Cloud is the smartest, most reasonable woman Bruce Wayne has ever dated, hands down. Grade: B+
Andrea Beaumont (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm)
If you haven't seen the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm movie because it's a cartoon, you're genuinely missing something: the best girlfriend Bruce Wayne ever had, and by far the best romance in any Bat-medium. After a young Bruce Wayne comes back from training around the world to avenge his parents by beating up bad guys, he meets Andrea Beaumont -- a nice, funny, exceedingly normal girl -- and falls in love. And Bruce Wayne is tormented -- should he follow through with his vow to his dead parents to be Batman, or should he marry the girl he loves? What would his parents really want, his happiness of vengeance? Bruce actually chooses love -- like a reasonable human being -- but then Andrea's dad crosses the mob, and she and her father have to flee. Bruce is heartbroken, and decides to become Batman.
But the story gets better: Andrea's dad is killed by the mob, and Andrea decides to get revenge for her dead father…just like Batman. She returns to Gotham City as the Phantasm, and actually kills the mobsters who ruined her life, which runs her afoul of Batman, and…I won't spoil the ending. Suffice to say, she never gets captured by the bad guys -- she captures them. Plus, she's smart, funny, strong and wonderful; it's easy to see why Bruce would rather marry her than go out like a bat every night.
Julie Madison (Batman and Robin)
I'm confident you either had totally forgotten until just now that Elle MacPherson starred in Batman and Robin, or just don't believe me. It's true -- she was the third-billed woman in the flick, under Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. MacPherson was Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend Julie Madison (who was also a girlfriend of Bruce Wayne in the 1940s Batman comics), but who did nothing in Batman and Robin. She may have gotten captured, actually, but I refuse to rewatch the film to find out.
I do know that George Clooney as Bruce Wayne told her he was Batman, making her the fourth woman in the movies to know Batman's secret identity, which, though ludicrous, is admittedly Batman's fault. Wikipedia says that most of MacPherson's scenes were cut from the film, including one where she gets stabbed to death by Poison Ivy. That scene would have earned her a pity "D" but instead... Grade: F
Rachel Dawes (Batman Begins)
Sure, the woman who first played her has let herself be enslaved by a man, never allowed to leave her home and forced to believe some jibber-jabber about dead aliens ruling the world, but Batman Begins' Rachel Dawes is certainly the most empowered woman in the live-action Batman universe. This Assistant District Attorney has been trying to make Gotham City a better place without dressing up in a Halloween costume. When riots break out in Gotham City late in the movie, she's immediately ready to help save as many people as possible, while most of the girls on this list would have fainted (and immediately gotten captured).
Her only real flaw -- watching Bruce Wayne fall into a big cave of bats as a child, then not putting two and two together when a clearly crazy but well-resourced man starts dressing like a bat and attacking criminals. C’mon, Rachel. It's not a toughie. Grade: A-
Rachel Dawes (The Dark Knight)
The Dark Knight earned a record-setting $155.34 million during its opening weekend, with Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes in the role of Batman's girlfriend. Grade the most recent Rachel Dawes in the comments.